Ziegler to retire from principal after five years

YJ Si, Editor-in-Chief

After five years of serving as Westview’s principal, Tina Ziegler announced March 23 to students and staff that she would be retiring from the position June 30.

She characterized her job with attention to student voice and involvement in what Wolverines were doing. Ziegler was often seen at various sports games, club meetings, theatre plays, dance performances, and walking around the plaza at lunch. She also regularly featured student and staff accomplishments on her Instagram page.

“[Being involved with students] is my favorite part of the job,” Ziegler said. “To be out in the plaza and seeing everybody—I love it.”

She still remembers the first day of school when she became a principal. 

“I remember walking down to the pep rally, and seeing [the bleachers] full of students,” she said. “I thought, ‘Okay, this is it.’ I remember thinking that this was a big, huge prize.”

At this time, she didn’t know any students, she said. Over the last five years, however, Ziegler said she has made sure to stay involved with the student body, and to keep the student voice involved in school policy.

“I’ve always believed in shared decision-making,” she said. “With the new bell schedule, we got student and staff surveys. [We were specific about] things like how many homerooms. It took us forever, but I think then, people begin to trust you and know that they’re going to have their voice heard.”

Ziegler’s retirement comes after a 37-year-long career in education. 

She first realized she wanted to pursue a career in education when she was in middle school. Her best friend at the time had a younger sister with Down syndrome. 

“My friend, unfortunately, was really embarrassed [by her sister],” Ziegler said. “But her little sister, Sally, became my friend too.” 

Her friendship with Sally inspired her to pursue a career in special education, which she taught for 11 years. In high school, she coached swimming and track for the high school Special Olympics. 

Eventually, she found herself teaching special education in Santa Ana. Later, when her husband found a job in San Diego, she transferred into the Poway Unified School District. 

“Even though people learn differently, and have challenges, there’s so much that you can do to make them more successful, not only in their learning, but in life,” she said. “And it’s really rewarding when you figure that out.”

Part of her career in special education involved figuring out different kinds of strategies for teaching. She eventually became a program specialist for special education and worked with teachers and families at various schools. Some of the strategies she brought to the district involved the use of TouchMath, where numbers are sorted into dots, and using songs to simplify multiplication.

“In special education, a lot of times, at least in the early career, it’s [about] trying to find strategies,” Ziegler said. “So you’re not an expert on the content, but it’s [finding strategies] to study.”

After eight years as a program specialist, she served as an assistant principal at Westview from 2007-2010. She was offered the position of principal at Sunset Hills elementary, where she stayed for seven years. 

“Being a principal at the elementary school, I felt the students were just so joyous,” she said. “They’re giving you hugs, and you feel like a rock star.” 

To Ziegler, the biggest difference between serving as principal at an elementary school versus a high school has been who she’s interacting with. 

“[At Sunset Hills], I was mostly helping families,” she said. “I would hold a lot of training on parenting and positive parenting, and how to even do things at home when the students don’t want to do homework or they want to go to bed and so I felt I had a big impact on the families.”

However, at Westview, she said that most of her interactions were with students directly—getting to know the students personally rather than knowing them through the parents.

Junior class co-president Lucy Sullivan (11) said that Ziegler’s visibility on campus has been invaluable to communication between students and administration.

“I think that it’s awesome that I get to talk to her and ask her questions or things going on in school,” Sullivan said. “I feel like ASB acts as the voice of the student body, and I think that us having a very direct line of communication with her [Ziegler] is good.”

In addition, Ziegler’s own children attended Westview before she became its principal. She said that knowing what the parents’ side is like has shaped the way she leads—looking for the good in people and the positives in events.

“We have a wonderful parent community here,” she said. “I mean, it’s a gem. They’re very supportive, and they like to be listened to. And if we have their support, we can do a lot of different things.”

Ziegler said that the most important thing to do as principal is listen rather than command. 

“I rarely come in and say, ‘This is what’s going to be done,’” she said. “It’s important for people to know that I care [about their voices].”

Social science teacher Nic Spiess said that Ziegler has consistently been supportive of teachers. 

“I think she understands what Westview is all about,” Spiess said. “She brings a passion and a joy to every day at Westview that it’s just incredibly infectious. It’s great.”

Ziegler said she hopes that the principal the district selects to replace her continues to be transparent and visible on campus.

“I hope that whoever takes over Westview is somebody who can work 14-hour days and be visible and in the classrooms as much as possible,” she said. “Sometimes it’s difficult. I understand that. But that’s what I hope for.”

Spiess said he hopes the next principal is somebody who understands Westview to its core.

“Westview is not like your cookie-cutter high school,” he said. “We’re going to need a principal who comes in and buys into that culture and stays involved.”

According to Spiess, Ziegler’s open door for student and staff input has been one of the best things about having her as principal.

“She’s an amazing leader, and [has been] fully committed to leading Westview,” he said. “I think she’s the best principal we’ve ever had.”

In Ziegler’s office, sticking out of a planter on top of a shelf, three messages are carved into ceramic stakes. They say “Grace,” “Gratitude,” and “Joie de Vivre,” meaning, “enjoy life.”

Beyond the staff she has brought onto campus, she said, she hopes those values are remembered. 

“As a leader, you need to give yourself grace and grace for other people,” she said. “And you need to be grateful and give gratitude every day.” 

Ziegler said that she hopes that current and future students try to get to know the next principal on a level beyond their job.

After she retires, Ziegler said she looks forward to being able to be home earlier, and getting to have dinner with her husband. She sees herself taking long walks at the beach and being able to watch the sunset. She hopes to take vacations not just in the summer or winter when everything is crowded, but whenever she wants to. 

And she’ll continue to enjoy life.